- WARM AND TASTY: The white cheese dip with chorizo.
From the looks of it, Benton's newest Mexican-American restaurant was doing quite well on a recent Saturday night. The place was absolutely packed. There were even a few patio-sitters, celebrating the unseasonably cool weather. But the peacefulness outside belied the panic within.
Having grown a little too used to what the Little Rock Mexican food scene has to offer, we were quite excited to venture down Interstate 30 just a bit. A few minutes after being seated, our enthusiasm started to wane. The staff members seemed frantic. They were at once overwhelmed and aimless. Never a good sign. The woman at the table next to us picked at her plate and gave a disappointed look to her husband. As they left, we noticed more than half of their food remained on the table, untouched.
Agave has a definite sports bar atmosphere. There's lots of seating, concrete floors, lots of nice ambient light coming through large windows, and every seat is within eyeshot of a huge television. An MMA fight night raged on as we nibbled on chips and salsa. The blood flowing from an opponent's gashed nose looked a little too close to enchilada sauce for our taste. But others didn't seem to mind.
Back to that salsa, though. Agave has a great salsa — fresh tomatoes,
We'd stay away from the house margarita ($5). It's heavy on the sweet and sour mix and light on the tequila. The rim of our glass was halfway covered in salt, and the drink tasted as if the other half had fallen in. To be fair, we almost feel bad complaining about a $5 margarita, but if this one had been even a tiny bit better, its shortcomings would've been easier to overlook. A little fresh lime juice and decent brand or amount of tequila can go a long way.
We ordered two appetizers — the guacamole ($7) and the queso
- PORK FAJITAS, CARNE ENCHILADAS: Fruit in the former, cinnamon in the latter.
The Pastor Fajitas ($13) looked more like carnitas. The more-than-adequate portion of shredded pork was juicy but bland, except for a hint of fruit juice. It was served with store-bought flour tortillas, grilled peppers and onions (which were perfectly fine), black beans and rice. The black beans were standard: seasoned nicely but nothing special. The side of rice tasted mostly of butter, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
The Carne Al Orno Enchiladas ($12) were substantial and flavorful. The enchilada sauce was the highlight of the dish. The red sauce tasted of tomatoes and chipotle peppers with spices, maybe even a hint of cinnamon. The meat was a little greasy but very tender, and the portion was huge. The refried beans had a nice smoky bacon flavor but were very salty. This dish came with a slightly different variety of rice, which, again, tasted mostly of butter.
Agave Grill has some kinks to work out in the kitchen and with staffing in order for it to stand out. Service was friendly; management was apologetic. Great food could have made the difference in our experience. It's just not there yet.Agave Grill
17324 Interstate 30
But Agave's menu features a wide variety of options including street tacos and even a Cheese-Dip Burger, which we weren't brave enough to go for. If it's shots you're looking for, the tequila menu is pretty extensive.
11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Kitchen closes at 10 p.m.
Full bar, credit cards accepted.